Since so much of what we do involves reading, it's natural to want to read as quickly and efficiently as possible. By practicing a few simple techniques, you can actually do a rather speedy job of learning to speed-read.

Assess Your Current Reading Skills

Choose two consecutive pages of material that is new but similar to the type of reading you usually do.

Set a stopwatch or note the time on a clock with a second hand. Read the passage at your usual pace. Then note the time when you finish. Subtract the starting time from the finish time to find out how many minutes have elapsed.

Count the number of words in the passage and divide the number of words by the number of minutes. That is your present words-per-minute rate.

Quiz yourself on what you have just read by writing a two- or three-sentence summary. If you can't recall much, just write down what you can remember. Keep in mind that increasing your reading speed helps prevent your mind from wandering. That will help you concentrate and remember.

Think back about the reading you just finished. Ask yourself if you were slowed down by any "speed bumps." For instance, if you had to look back to reread any portions, make a note of that speed bump. If you stumbled over unfamiliar words, make a note. If your lips moved as you read, jot that down as well.

Boost Your Current Reading Speed

Reread the passage you used to test yourself. This time, use the "gliding" technique by focusing on groups of words, not just individual ones. For example, look at the middle word in this sentence: Our new puppy is barking. Notice that when you focus on the word "puppy," you actually see all the words in the sentence. As you become used to reading in this way, your eyes will take in longer groups of words at a time, and the natural result is an increase in reading speed.

Block your tendency to reread what you've just finished with an index card. As you read, move the card down the page at a rate just slightly faster than you usually read. Make your eyes keep up with the card.

Shun any tendency you might have to read aloud or to mouth the words. You can do this by holding a pencil gently between your teeth.

Avoid stumbling over unfamiliar words by reading past them. Let the sense of the context, or words surrounding them, help you figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words. Your vocabulary will gradually increase as you read more.

Practice Regularly to Maintain Your Reading Skills

Practice often and regularly. As with any muscle-related task, you need to keep your reading in shape to stay at your peak speed and performance.

Retest yourself from time to time. The average reading speed is about two hundred words per minute. Use the techniques suggested to move your score to as much as three or four hundred words per minute, or even more.

Speed-read often by reading newspaper articles. Since the columns for a newspaper article are narrow, you can increase your speed by focusing just once or twice in each line.